SASKATOON — Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Third Vice Chief Aly Bear and First Nations activist Ashley Callingbull hope to inspire the next generation of female leaders when the Strength of our Women Awards return on Wednesday, Nov. 30, at the Dakota Dunes Hotel at the Whitecap Dakota Nation.
Bear and Callingbull held a press conference via Zoom at the FSIN office on Friday, Nov. 25, where they announced the return annual awards gala for the sixth time after the Coronavirus pandemic prevented the organizers from holding the event in 2020 and 2021. The FSIN and the Saskatchewan First Nations Women’s Commission are the co-presenters of the event.
The gala is expected to bring together First Nations peoples from all the Treaties in the province as they show their support for all Indigenous women for their resilience and strength and put focus on their accomplishments that would inspire not only young Indigenous girls but everyone in continuing to help create positive changes in our society.
“We’re highlighting the successes of First Nations women and celebrating the work they do every single day. Many of our women are overlooked, but they are the backbone of our homes and the glue to our First Nations communities,” said Bear.
Bear said she wants the young girls that would soon become the next generation of Indigenous female leaders to look up to the current crop of women chiefs like her and the winners of 12 categories up for grabs. The winners were notified the same day, Friday, after the press conference so they could attend the gala.
“A big part of this event [awards gala] is for our young women. It’s for our children. It’s for future generations so that they can know that they can break barriers. That they can take up space and know that their voices are valued,” said Bear, who holds the Women’s Commission and Youth portfolios with FSIN.
“Considering how things are in society, our women who are incarcerated and those who were missing and murdered. We need to show representation in all walks of life. That we are here. We are resilient and strong. That’s the kind of message that I want our young Indigenous girls to know.”
Bear is one of the 24 female chiefs in the province, the most significant number of First Nations women leaders all over the country, including FSIN Fourth Vice Chief Heather Bear, who joins her in the Women’s Commission. Both are members of the SFNWC, which strongly promotes the significant role of First Nations women in their homes and communities.
Callinbull, who was named ambassador for the Saskatchewan Rush and Saskatoon Blades sports organizations, said the awards gala celebrates the achievements of female Indigenous leaders in the 12 categories — Arts and Entertainment, Business, Culture and Spirituality, Education, Environment, Health and Wellness, Law and Justice, Leadership and Advocacy, Sports, Youth (Under-18), Lifetime Achievement and Matriarch.
“I think that we are celebrating the achievements of these women. I think there will be other young Indigenous First Nations women out there who would see that their dreams are possible when given the opportunity. Seeing that dream in front of them would give them the fire to dare to dream big for themselves as well,” said Callingbull.
“Once they see that their dreams are possible, they can think that they can do it too. That they can accomplish something and break barriers as well. So, this event is about the women who are paving the way, but it will not end there. Many young women will follow in their footsteps and create paths for other young women to follow. It will be a positive ripple effect.”
The gala also serves as a fundraising event. The proceeds will support those fleeing domestic violence and the families of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-Spirit Peoples (MMIWG2S). All proceeds from the event are directed towards front-line assistance for First Nations women.
“We need to continue to advocate for them and spread awareness to stop this epidemic from continuing to happen. We also need to support the families going through difficult times and be there for them,” said Bear.